Bridge the gap between older, younger students


Butler should explore more options to help incoming freshmen prepare for their first experience away from home.
Freshmen can learn what to expect at college through the programs and resources the Office of Admission and Residence Life offer.
“We certainly do our best to help that transition process,” said Karla Cunningham, director of residence life. “We do what makes sense.”
Campus tours, for example, give a basic idea of the university. However, students are generally quiet during their tours, according to Kathryn Cleary, a sophomore tour guide.
“Students are really timid. It’s mainly the parents [that ask questions],” Cleary said. “Students only remember the details that personally connect to them.”
Other information might not seem important to students during the tours. However, when it comes time to get ready for school, they will want to know those details.
Additionally, freshmen need someone to reach out to when questions occur as they start packing for school.
Resident assistants (RA) can fill that role for students who need help and reassurance. They are good role models.
“Once [the students] are here, [RAs] are their most important resource,” Karla Cunningham, director of residence life, said.
Still, the RAs do not contact their students until the end of the summer. Freshmen need help before this point and should have someone to talk to earlier in the process.
The residence life FAQ page is also a resource for students seeking advice. The website offers good, basic information, such as dorm room floor plans and suggested packing lists. However, students need more than this. They need the personal touch of veteran students’ insight.
This page also does not address the questions many new students have about their classes, freshman Kate Eppen said. Her orientation group wanted to know what to expect when they walk into the classroom.
“Our [student orientation guides] kept saying, ‘it depends on the class,’” Eppen said.
Residence life should offer all its students a real preview of what they will experience as freshmen. True Blue, a program offered through the admissions office, allows high school seniors to shadow a Butler freshman for a day.
“It really helped give me a feel for the class size,” Perry Ter Molen, freshman, said. “It was great to get to know some of the older students. It was cool to get a vibe for how the school runs during a typical school day.”
Residence life should also bring the concept of shadowing a freshman to their website. Students who are unable to participate in the True Blue program could get a similar experience online, perhaps through a student-produced video.
“Students should be provided a sneak peek [of college],” Cleary said. “Something that says, ‘Here’s what you need for your dorm.’ It could also show them a typical classroom and have a professor speaking about what you need for class.”
Students producing the video would get to focus on the information they found most valuable as freshmen. Upperclassmen who have already experienced these worries are the best resource. They have their own helpful stories and examples.
Freshmen need resources that will answer questions they have and even questions they do not know they have.  And their best allies are right at their doorstep:  the very students who have preceded them.